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Two Iowa teenagers murdered a popular high school Spanish teacher last year over a poor grade, prosecutors alleged in court documents, revealing a possible motive for the first time.
Attorneys for Willard Miller filed a motion requesting that all evidence against him and Jeremy Goodale be suppressed because investigators lacked probable cause when they searched Miller’s home and cell phone, according to The Guardian.
Miller and Goodale, both 17, are each charged with first-degree murder for the fatal beating of Nohema Graber, 66, in November of last year. Both have pleaded not guilty.
Prosecutors filed a response to the motion on Tuesday and revealed their theory about the alleged killing ahead of a Wednesday court hearing, in which the judge will hear arguments regarding the defendant's motion.
At the time of her death, Graber was a Spanish teacher at Fairfield High School where both teens were students. On Nov. 2, Graber met with Miller to discuss a poor grade, after which she went to the Chautauqua Park for her daily walk, “which she conducted almost every day after school at the same time and place,” prosecutors said in court documents obtained by the Des Moines Register.
Graber's van was seen leaving the park about 45 minutes later, around 5 p.m.. going southbound on Glasgow Road. A short time later, a witness observed two males in the front seats of the van, according to the documents.
That same witness later saw “two thin white males walking along Middle Glasgow Road.” Investigators found Graber’s van at the end of the road where the two white males were seen walking.
Another witness, who was unnamed, told investigators that on the same day, around 5 p.m., Goodale called him and asked him to pick him and Miller up on Middle Glasgow Road.
Graber’s badly beaten body was found on Nov. 3, hidden under a tarp, wheelbarrow and railroad ties at the same park where she went for her daily walk. She had been beaten to death with a baseball bat.
“The poor grade is believed to be the motive behind the murder of Graber which directly connects Miller. Miller was interviewed by investigators and described the frustrations he had with the way Graber taught Spanish," prosecutors said in court documents. “Miller voiced his frustration over Graber hurting his grade point average and thought she was doing that to other students also.”
Miller called Graber an “asshole,” according to court documents.
Miller initially denied any knowledge about Graber’s disappearance, prosecutors said, though he later told investigators that “he had knowledge of everything but did not participate.”
Prosecutors also said in the court documents that Miller "claimed that he was forced by the real killers to provide his wheelbarrow to help move the body, and that he helped drive Graber’s van. He also stated at one point that a roving group of masked kids made him help.”
Miller’s attorneys challenged the use of Snapchat messages provided by a witness, because “law enforcement failed to provide information to the issuing magistrate to show the informant is reliable or that the information from the informant should be considered reliable," according to the documents.
“The juvenile witness provided photos of the Snapchat conversation that he had preserved that identify Goodale’s admission that he acted in concert with another person to bring about Graber’s death,” prosecutors said in the court documents.
During an interview with law enforcement “the juvenile witness shares the Snapchat information from Goodale. The juvenile also identifies Goodale as making statements that implicate both Goodale and Miller by name.”
Graber's death devastated her family and shocked the tight-knit community.
"To know Nohema was to love her — she was the kind of person every community longs to have in its midst and we were blessed to have her in our lives," Graber's family said in a statement after her death, according to CBS News. "She lived for her children, her family and her faith. Her next priorities were her job as an educator and the children she taught, her local Parish, and the Spanish-speaking community in Fairfield."
She taught at Fairfield High School for nine years.
Miller’s trial is scheduled for next year, on March 20, and Goodale’s trial is set to begin Dec. 5. They are both being tried as adults.
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